Monday, January 23, 2017

A lesson at the walk

It seems to be a winter tradition that I head west to Ed Chambers at Turning Point Equine Center.  Maybe it's because Ed has a 100 X 200 square foot heated arena.  Maybe it's because my horse is always feral in winter.  Or I can't get in with my other instructors.

In this case it was in the mid 60s in January but Stella was still pretty feral so I went out for a horsemanship lesson.  Ed's group lessons are mostly at the walk, with multiple long rein stretch breaks and a few trot laps to get everyone forward.  Don't assume because it's all walk work you aren't going to end up sore and sweaty.

Ed teaches obedience and control over the horse.  Does your horse flex (no not just put its head down or bear down on the bit)?  Can you move your horse 1/2 step right then 1/2 step left?  Can you do turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches?  Half pass, leg yield, and side pass?  While riding through obstacles?

Stella balked at this obstacle, even though she's pretty good with the tarp at home.  The combination of a lack of general obedience and a new place had her saying NOPE!

Ed lead her through the obstacle first, she wasn't scared of it and lead easily.

Then I was able to ride her through it alone.  No big deal!

Here Ed is showing me about flexions.  He wants the horse to yield its head down to slight pressure on the reins and then give.  Stella tried lots of evasions.  Throwing her head up, bearing her head down, going behind the pressure.  When she released Ed released.  He says that we always have the reward the horse with that release.  He says I can't get good work out of her if she isn't obedient enough to yield, and I can't get straight work out of her either.

He felt that Stella was a smart horse who was working way to hard to get out of work and not trying to be a listening horse even if she wasn't sure what I wanted her to do.  He wanted her to yield in her jaw, and to move obediently and swiftly off my leg.

We may have gotten chased down the long side by Ed with my whip when Stella felt that running backwards was an appropriate response to being asked to sidepass.  Fairly horrifying as I felt the end was near, but it also gave me a lot to think about.  Even though Ed's first response to her being disobedient was extreme she didn't do anything crazy stupid and learned swiftly that moving off of slight leg pressure was the better decision.

Here's an exercise we did on a circle.  Ed wanted us to take the shape of the circle with the correct bend and then to "knock" the horse a stride sideways and increase the size of the circle by a few feet while keeping the same bend.

Frankly I've been pretty timid with her this winter.  With a mystery lameness related to poor saddle fit and needing chiropractic work she'd gotten rather expressive with her displeasure at being ridden and I at first was afraid to push her through what I knew was discomfort, then was later afraid period when she was feeling better but had learned a little rearing could get her out of work.  Combined with the weather and my inconsistent riding schedule and I had grown a monster.

Ed's patient slow work requiring obedience from Stella and lightness from myself was a great wake up and just what we needed in the middle of winter.  I'd like to fit in slightly more regular lessons with him, such as when the other trainers are unavailable.  This "western" work is great for a responsive horse.


  1. that sounds like an awesome lesson. this style of riding and horsemanship isn't my primary focus, but i've been turning to it more and more often lately in establishing the basics with my greenbean, and learning more about how to influence his movement and communicate more clearly with him.

    seems like a perfect way to also help reestablish that trust and partnership. Stella looks super tuned into you during the video!

  2. It's interesting that Ed doesn't call anything he does dressage but his basic "horsemanship" has more dressage in it than the average dressage lesson! His half pass would be at home in the dressage ring. He says if you can't move your horse sideways you can't move it forward which makes sense when you ponder on it.


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